Pentagon Warned In January 2017 That A ‘Novel Respiratory Disease’ Could Cause Millions To Suffer

A picture of a hospital in New York City.
EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ / Getty Images

In the final days of Barack Obama’s time in office and just two weeks before Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Department of Defense issued a dire warning — a “novel respiratory disease” had the potential to spread rapidly, causing “millions to suffer.”

The legal news site Law & Crime reported that the 107-page document titled “Pandemic Influenza and Infectious Disease Response” warned that a potentially new virus could grind society to a halt as it spread rapidly across the globe. The Pentagon literature identified the possibility of a global pandemic as the “most likely and significant” enemy threat, describing exactly what was to come nearly three years later with the novel coronavirus.

“An outbreak in a single community can quickly evolve into a multinational health crisis that causes millions to suffer, as well as spark major disruption to every facet of society,” the report warned. “Disease characteristics may include may include high transmissibility or severity and high likelihood of impact on voce health protection due to limited or no natural protection or MCM.”

It went on to caution that such an outbreak would have significant national security ramifications, as well as the potential to significantly impact the economy.

This is not the first document to warn about the possibility of a pandemic. As The Inquisitr reported, another study published in September 2019 warned about the potential dangers of such an event and also about the risks of conflating a pandemic with the seasonal flu — something Trump has been accused of doing in early statements about COVID-19.

As the The New York Times reported, Trump’s White House is accused of ignoring the report, which warned that a pandemic could cause up to $3.8 trillion in economic damage and lead to the deaths of 500,000 people.

But even this study underestimated just how dangerous the current coronavirus has been, the outlet added.

“At even the highest rates it modeled, the pandemic flu in the exercise was still less contagious and less deadly than epidemiologists now say the coronavirus could be in the United States,” the New York Times report read.

Though the Pentagon report was published at the end of Barack Obama’s term in office, much of the blame has fallen on Trump for the reaction to the coronavirus. Critics note that the president spent weeks underestimating the severity of the virus, comparing it to the seasonal flu and predicting that cases would soon drop down to zero. Instead, the virus has spread across the United States and on Thursday, the total number of confirmed cases topped 244,000.